Photo Credit: Renée Veniskey
It will be 3 minutes and 38 seconds unlike you’ve ever experienced before, or will again.
The Great North American Solar Eclipse is happening April 8, 2024, and Rochester, NY is in the path of totality. At 3:20pm that day in Rochester, the world will be light, and then it will be dark, and then it will be light again. If you’re here, you’ll remember it forever.
A total solar eclipse happens once every 18 - 24 months somewhere in the world, typically over an ocean. For a few minutes, the Moon is positioned between the Sun and the Earth so it casts a shadow on the planet about 100 miles wide. When it happens in a populated area, the humans in the shadow experience a profoundly personal and community event.
The Great American Eclipse of 2017 stretched across the US from the Pacific Northwest to the Southeast. Millions flocked to the path of totality on August 21, 2017; some rural states doubled their population that weekend. Communities that had prepared well in advance thrived.
The April 2024 eclipse will travel through Texas, the Midwest, upstate New York, and northern New England. As the easternmost major city in totality, Rochester–the optics and photonics capital of the world–is expecting 375,000 - 500,000 visitors for the weekend of April 5-8. The “City That Made Light Fun” has many exciting events planned for residents and visitors alike.
“We started preparing for 2024 right after the 2017 eclipse by learning best practices from communities that were in that path,” says Debra Ross, chair of Rochester’s Eclipse Task Force. “Leaders in three local organizations–the Rochester Museum & Science Center, Visit Rochester, and the Genesee Transportation Council–stepped up to manage the preparations. We now have over 500 task force members in tourism, science education, arts and culture, transportation, government, and emergency management preparing for our region to make the very most of this experience.”
As the region’s main hub of informal science learning, the Rochester Museum & Science Center (RMSC) is managing outreach in advance of the eclipse and helping locals embrace the opportunity to learn more about Earth’s place in our solar system. Most important, they’re educating the region about how to safely interact with the Sun.
“The phases leading into and after totality are just stunning to watch, but you should NEVER look directly at the sun without proper solar viewing equipment with the exception of during totality,” says Daniel Schneiderman, the RMSC’s Eclipse Partnerships Coordinator. “The eclipse is more than just a visual experience. But it is heavily physical as well. The temperature will drop by 10 degrees, shadows will sharpen, birds will return to their nest as if it was night, and there will be an eerie stillness in the air.”
The RMSC will be hosting a 3-day festival during the Eclipse called ROC the Eclipse. “We’ll have tons of hands-on experiences for all ages, food trucks, talks by science communicators, music, telescopes, and more! We’ll have planetarium shows running round the clock that whole weekend” says Schneiderman.
Opportunities will abound during Eclipse weekend for experiencing the best of Rochester: Major events are also being planned by the Strong National Museum of Play, Genesee Country Village & Museum, the George Eastman Museum, and many other local community organizations, to showcase the region and the waterways that flow through it. The hotel, restaurant, and craft beverage communities are inventing eclipse-themed menus and cocktails. There will be major eclipse concerts, including the RPO Eclipse Spectacular, as well as many other exhibits and performances–something for every age, taste, and interest.
The Continental US will not experience another eclipse until one in the Southeast in 2045… and not again in Rochester until 2144. So the eclipse will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most.
“You have a choice for where to stand in the path,” says Ross. “I guarantee that no matter what the weather in April, you’ll be warm with us. Come play with light in Rochester!”